Observations by Lance Pauker

We generally think of brands within the context of our everyday lives; what we should wear, what car we should drive, where we should eat. It’s that endless permeation that ultimately makes up our identity. Two neighbors may wake up and drive to the same office complex, but many of us would be very surprised if the Patagonia-wearing, Prius-driving lover of Chopped shared the same occupation as the Dickies wearing, GMC driving fan of Outback Steakhouse. The correlation between who we are, and what brands we are is inevitable, as is their influence on us.

Despite being a young male who enjoys wearing backwards hats, I had never watched the show Entourage http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0387199/ in full. Figuring that it’s probably a good idea to have at least 10 obscure Vinny Chase/Ari Gold references in my back pocket at all times (I ultimately want to do something in entertainment), I have recently taken to watching the series from the pilot episode. Technically, I’m catching up on a cultural phenomenon; one which has often been described as a worry-free outtake on how young people perceived narratives of success pre-crash, and one whose positive reception was arguably responsible for the development of its now-defunct East Coast cousin, How To Make It In America http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1299365/.

It’s interesting comparing these two shows for a number of reasons. Both were on HBO, both were developed by the same producer core (Marky Mark!), and both seemingly appealed to the same set of cocky-yet-somehow-justified male demographic trying to balance the fast-paced action movie/romantic comedy that is young people trying to be somebody in the world.

While I’m of the demographic who HBO essentially made these series’ for, I was not supposed to watch How To Make It prior to watching Entourage. My unintentional reversal, however, has brought about a number of rather interesting discoveries. So that you could read other stuff on the internet today, I will only share one anecdote:

In a season 3 episode of Entourage, superstar actor Vincent Chase celebrates his 29th birthday. Turtle, who is tasked with organizing the party, finds himself way over budget. His qualm is essentially balancing reality with an exaggerated form of reality. The characters on Entourage live a movie star life, and Turtle is insistent on organizing a party that not only fits that lifestyle, but exceeds it. Instead of cutting costs, Turtle manages to pull together a number of different sponsors (Victoria’s Secret, a number of top-shelf liquor brands), and holds the party on a giant yacht. His solution was essentially not to spend less, but to spend significantly more.

Crisp, the clothing line of How To Make It In America’s two main protagonists, holds a number of celebratory events throughout the series’ run. It’s safe to say that Turtle would be tremendously disappointed with every single one of these parties. Often held in cramped apartments featuring college quality liquor, they all likely cost at least $50,000 less than what Turtle and Vince are used to working with. Yet in both shows, you see the manifestation of similar peer-driven, success oriented camaraderie. The inside jokes, the toasts to what we’ve done and where we’re going, and the breathtaking cityscape views. The difference in wealth is rather noticeable when juxtaposing the two shoes, yet they somehow appear to share the same cultural values and life experiences.

In terms of branding, those targeting the GenY male demographic could learn a lot from watching how both these series’ partied. While Crisp didn’t exactly make millions during the How To Make It’s first two seasons, I would argue that an Entourage style party wouldn’t exactly fly in the 2010-2011 world that How To Make It In America was set in. Compromising isn’t just an option nowadays, oftentimes its the only option. Brands must be not only be aware of this, but promote this lifestyle in a way that makes it appealing and progressive. While today’s youth may need to compromise more financially, this compromise must be part of Gen Y working plan to one day, make it in America.